In October 2009, I posed a question on my blog “African American vs. White American: Is there a difference in their infertility?” I was on a mission to find if there was a disconnect between minority infertile patients and their counterparts. The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.
At that time in my search I found I was not the only person on the same quest. I met Regina with The Broken Brown Egg. The BBB was “born out of a need” to bring awareness regarding African American Infertility and Reproductive Health Awareness. I also came across the Families of Color Initiative. This organization utilizes “innovative educational approaches to encourage a dialogue and increase awareness about infertility, family building, and reproductive health with communities of color and healthcare provider.”
I’ve done many searches regarding Minority Infertility, African American Infertility, Latino Infertility, Indian Infertility, well you get the picture. Infertility has been the least explored or discussed among professionals within the health care community. Is there really a need for separate research? Infertility is infertility regardless of what race, right? That may not be necessarily true. More people are starting to become aware of this disparity and people are starting to talk about it. However, that doesn’t mean reports are readily available, or exist at all for that matter.
The problem is that infertility in and of itself is already a lonesome disease. Even more difficult is when you are a minority and have no idea where to find help or know that there is help to be had. Typically clinics, agencies, etc. gear their marketing campaign towards Caucasian, middle class women. I’ve never opened an Ebony or Essence magazine and found an advertisement from an infertility organization or ART clinic. When I look at an advertisement, I very seldom see anyone that looks like me.
What is surprising about this bias in marketing is that Caucasian women are not significantly more likely to be infertile than women of other ethnic groups. As a matter of fact, according to the National Womens Health Information Center, African American women are seventeen percent more likely than Caucasian women to develop fibroid (tumors in the uterus), which can cause pregnancy difficulties. Additionally, some studies suggest that up to 40% of African American women who have been diagnosed with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (typically caused by sexually transmitted diseases) in fact were misdiagnosed and were actually suffering from endometriosis, another leading cause of infertility. Despite these numbers, African American women are less likely to seek treatment for infertility than Caucasian women (31% compared to 44%).
A common misperception is that minority women, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, can get pregnant at any time. Infertility among minority women is currently pretty much ignored within the healthcare community. Public awareness of these issues is alarmingly low. Because of this, many minority women do not know about or do not trust the resources that are available to them.
Lack of financial resources and lack of knowledge are just a few of the reasons why minorities don’t seek treatment. Additional barriers could stem from cultural and religious views. Some may feel that seeking infertility treatment maybe against God’s plan. Religion can play a huge role in one’s beliefs regarding fertility treatment. For example, someone with a Hispanic background may turn to their priests and believe that infertility is God’s will. Others may have distrust towards the medical field because of the distrust that was once very prevalent within the African American community for instance (e.g., involuntary sterilization of black women or the Tuskegee experiment). In many minority groups a diagnosis of infertility may be perceived as a threat to one’s manhood. Infertility is a women’s issue.
Adoption is not as common in a minority home either. In some cultures adoption is frowned upon. Many others simply don’t seek out private adoption because they are misinformed about cost.
Infertility is not something that takes aim at a specific gender, ethnicity, or social group. It is a disease that can affect anyone, throughout their course of life. The main issue is that its affects everyone differently. Because of this fact, there should be different types of treatment and education so that everyone gets the best opportunity to overcome this disease.